IF there is an AFL club that you want to land at to begin your football career, it’s Collingwood Football Club.
A state-of-the-art training centre, 85,000 members, blockbuster games and stars of the game.
It is fair to say that the 'Pies could are one of the biggest clubs in the country and Jackson Ramsay got to experience it all; six years of it to be exact.
Part of the Collingwood experience is the traditional ANZAC Day fixture, a memory the East Perth product will never forget.
“That game is definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life,” Ramsay remembers.
“I went into the game in 2014 confident I was going to play but nothing prepares you for when you walk out on to the ground. The warm-up and Last Post are just spine-tingling, you look around and there are 90,000 in the crowd.
“The whole game itself was just fantastic. When someone kicks a goal and you’re in the middle of the MCG, you think to yourself gee this is loud.
"It’s probably the behind the scenes stuff that makes the week special. If you are a first-year player, regardless of if you’re playing or not, you go to the dawn service in the morning.
"We have guest speakers throughout the week, and it gives the players a perspective that footy isn’t everything.
“It is really special.”
Ramsay took the typical route towards an AFL career as a young player in Western Australia. Playing for Aquinas College at school, into East Perth colts and finally for the State U18s before the Draft Combine.
“In the back of my mind in 2012 I wanted to get picked up, if not I was going to be a plumber,” he said.
“I remember watching the draft at home with my family and my manager Colin Young gave me a list of clubs and picks of where I could possibly go.
“Pick 37 came in and North took Ben Jacobs. Luckily next pick I got snapped up and it was such a surreal moment, I didn’t know how to react.
“Two days later I was on the plane to Melbourne and then Utah in the States for a pre-season training camp. It was a whirlwind.”
The 18-year-old arrived at the club during a period of sustained success and had to adapt quickly to the rigours of AFL football.
“It was definitely a shock to the system,” he said.
“The training was one thing, but the sheer number of supporters that the club has and that expectation. You don’t realise the amount of drive internally that the club has to win games of footy.”
Upon arriving at the club, Ramsay built a strong connection with his fellow draftees, whilst also leaning on senior players early in his career.
“I got along really well with the guys I was drafted with – Brody Grundy, Ben Kennedy, Adam Oxley,” he said.
“In terms of senior players, I played down back with Alan Toovey, who went to Aquinas like I did, so we had common ground there.
“In training, I lent on Heritier Lumumba, he really put me under his wing and showed me how to train hard.
“I still speak to Steele Sidebottom regularly, he’s one of my good mates and really guided me through most of my career at the Pies.”
In Round 22, 2014, Ramsay made his breakthrough into the senior side on the back of strong VFL form, but his first game in the black and white wasn’t quite what he expected.
“I didn’t really know it was coming to be honest,” he claimed.
“We had so many injuries and Bucks called me and said prepare like you normally would.”
“We flew to Sydney to play GWS. Trav Cloke does his hammy, Brent Macaffer does his knee and all of a sudden I end up playing 96% game time in my first match.”
“I was so cooked by the end and all I really remember is the Gatorade shower after the win and just the noise the crowd makes.”
Throughout his five-year stint at Collingwood, Ramsay found himself on the fringes of the squad, largely due to injury and strong team performance.
“It was the hardest part, particularly in my last year,” he said. Finding yourself in and out, it is so hard to get momentum, but injuries certainly didn’t help me.
“I would play the first few rounds of most years and then get season-ending injuries. There were times where I have definitely fallen out of love with the game.
“But I have really always had this internal drive to just see how good I can be. Even when you’re sitting on the sidelines, your teammates and playing footy is what continues to bring you back.”
At the end of 2017, Ramsay was delisted by Collingwood and return to the WAFL to play for East Perth. The now 25-year-old believes the club is heading in a great direction, with a return to AFL not out of the question.
“I’m loving my time back at East Perth,” he said.
“Jeremy Barnard has brought a new feel to the club and we’ve got some great young players and recruits in the doors.
“I do have aspirations to play AFL still. If it happens it happens, but all I can do is stay fit and play good footy.
“If someone comes knocking, I will take the opportunity with both hands.”